For the past several months, I've been helping my 81-year-old mom sort through family photos. We started with a box of studio portraits taken in the mid- to late-1800s and have made our way through albums of snapshots taken with some of the first Brownie cameras. She confirmed the identities of many and added names to other photos that were unmarked or simply labeled "great-grandma" or "great-grandpa"; I organized the piles into family units and labeled each accordingly.
It's hard to know what to do with these formal portraits and slightly out-of-focus snapshots, but I feel the need to preserve them. While some trigger specific memories for my mom, each photo is a piece of family folklore, representing stories passed down from generation to generation: The stoic-faced couple whose studio portrait was the only photograph their son packed in his trunk before immigrating to America, knowing he'd never return to the "old country." The fuzzy snapshot of a lanky farm boy in a suit and tie, documenting the 18-year-old's first weekend away from home—a 45-mile train trip to attend a dance. The group shot of a young woman and her friends standing in front of their dorm room, dressed in cap and gown, the first in their families to graduate from college.
We relish in the retelling of these stories, but the more carefully I consider the photographs, the better I understand the gift that they represent—that gift of support and blessing that only a parent can bestow upon a child as he begins to chart his way into the world.
During the next two months, my family will pose for a series of group photos that are destined for photo albums and picture frames. While these group photos with grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins are an important documentation of age and physical growth, I also plan to capture the silly, caught-in-the-moment shots that more fully reveal who my children are at this present moment. In the years to come, these are the images that will mean more to me because in them, I'll see the first steps of the paths my children are forging into their futures.
I hope you too can capture these kinds of shots as your families gather for upcoming holidays and that Literary Mama continues to be your go-to community for reading and writing about your experiences.
Welcome to our November issue!
P.S. Stay connected between monthly issues by subscribing to our blog or by following us on social media. See you there!
Signs Frank Missed by Kate Anger
112 Miles from Karnes Immigrant Detention Center, Karnes City, Texas by Lisa Moore
Doorway of the Mother by Allison Blevins
Prima Materia by Amy Robinson
Moon Hunters by Kerri Pierce
Week 20 by Coriel O'Shea Gaffney
The Mother-Daughter Narratives of Elizabeth Strout by Jodi Paloni
Photos by Michelle GD and Heather Vrattos
A special message from our senior editors:
In 2003, the Literary Mama community began with a small group of articulate women who believed they had something to say to the world. Some already had a book or a writing workshop to promote, but others were looking for a safe place to tell a story or share an experience. It didn't take long for word to spread, and that group was soon fielding requests from other mothers, asking if they, too, could write something for the site.
That was more than 1,400 contributors and 4,700 posts ago.
We're not a politically-oriented organization and believe that this helps define our niche and strengthen our publication. You won't see us promoting one ideology over another on our pages or sharing angry diatribes in our social media platforms.
But mother writers need to speak their truths.
The group of 25 currently pictured on our staff page are as committed as ever to furthering the vision the founders discussed and then developed into submission guidelines. We, too, believe our pages can be a vital resource, and we echo the excitement our founders expressed in their introductory email conversation with each other: "I want mama writers who are writing for the commercial markets to come here for relief and inspiration, and to have a place to write what they just want to write." and "I want to be a part of a movement that’s dedicated to articulating emotional truth about the experience of mothering." and "I don't want to write only for myself. . . . I also want to write what I must write."
We look forward to reading your work.
Karna Converse, Editor-in-Chief
Christina Consolino, Kate Haas, Libby Maxey, Senior Editors